Playing with two spinners, or in other words sacrificing one bowler to accommodate Rohit Sharma, has paid rich dividends for India in Kanpur but then there is no surety if the same formula could work out in the remaining two Tests too.
India had gone into the series opener against New Zealand with just four bowlers – R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav – a decision that was taken to ensure Test struggler Sharma in the playing eleven. Sharma got out for 35 in the first innings after spending good time in the middle, but it was his knock of 68 in the second that came for special mention by his skipper Virat Kohli after the victory on Monday.
“You obviously have to strengthen your batting on a wicket that might go 50-50. Because, you never know when the game can slip away quickly,” said the skipper, adding: “With extra batsman Rohit getting crucial runs along with (Ravindra) Jadeja, it gave us that extra one hour on Day 4 to go for the kill. That makes quite a bit of difference.”
However, Kohli indicated that this may not be the case in Kolkata because of the different nature of pitch there. “The wicket in Kolkata, we know is not this dry. Eden Gardens wicket is much suitable to batsmen and we may have to play an extra bower there, but only after having a look at the wicket. The team selection mostly depends on situation and conditions,” said Kohli.
Kohli also termed Cheteshwar Pujara’s 62 and 78 in the two innings as refreshing because he scored at a pretty decent pace. “He is someone who absorbs the pressure really well but after a certain stage in the innings, there comes a time when the team needs runs. And watching Pujara scoring at pretty decent pace was good,” came the praise from skipper.
Kohli confirmed that it was during India’s previous series in the West Indies that the team management had asked Pujara to step up his scoring rate at the No. 3 spot. In the first two Tests in the Caribbean, Pujara made 16 off 67 balls and 46 off 159 balls before being dropped from the third Test. “That’s where we felt that he has the ability to capitalise. It was just about conveying that to him. He has worked hard on his game. He scored at a good strike rate in the recent Duleep Trophy game. And here, too, his scoring rate was almost 70 or so, which for me was a revelation to see Pujara bat like that,” said Kohli.
On the question of what, as a captain, he has learnt from this victory in Kanpur, Kohli said it’s about being “patient” while on the field if wickets are not falling. “I am still pretty early in my captaincy career. We have to patient when wickets don’t fall. The important thing is to not to leak extra runs,” Kohli said.
The Indian skipper is expecting New Zealand side to come back fighting in the remaining two Tests.
“They showed good resilience and resistance and that is something you want to see from the opposition. I think credit goes to New Zealand as well, the reason that match went on to the second session on Day 5 because of the character and guts that they showed. I am sure the series will get more competitive as we go on,” he added.